Saturday, January 18, 2003

Hey! For once the media reports accurate numbers in a protest rally. I just came back from the Portland march to find this on The Oregonian's web page:
More than 20,000 attend Portland peace march By GILLIAN FLACCUS The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- More than 20,000 people marched through downtown Portland Saturday to protest a possible war in Iraq in one of the city's largest peace rallies ever.
Downtown streets rang with drumbeats, cheers and peace hymns, and marchers hoisted signs that read "War is Just Terrorism With a Bigger Budget," "Preventative War: An Oxymoronic Idea" and "Grandmas for Peace."
Elderly women in wheelchairs joined families with small children, couples with dogs and hooded protesters dressed in black as the eclectic crowd wound through the city, at times stopping traffic.
I'd say 20,000 was a pretty accurate estimate. There were so many people there that the parade lapped itself. The organizers thought about continuing the march, but they had other events planned and so decided not to. To bad. It might have been fun to see how long we could have gone marching around in a big unbroken circle (Conga line!) They also said it was the largest demonstration ever of any kind in Portland history. I don't know if that is true or not, but it was impressive. The "ordinary citizens" (as opposed to the more usual group of peace activists, anarchists, etc.) easily outnumbered everyone else. I saw only three counter protestors. One was an old guy standing in his uniform on the side of the street holding a sign up to the crowd saying simply "Attack Iraq, support our corageous troops" and two other 30 somethings carrying signs of Hussein saying "Dictators don't deserve peace". The old guy got a respectful reception from what I could see and the younger guys were pretty much left alone except for a few cries from the crowd that Bush was a dictator as well. I know of no reports of any confrontations with the police. Everyone was on their best behavior and a good time appeared to be had by all. I have to say that there are two truly inspiring aspects of the growing anti-war movement: (1) it took years after the Vietnam war started for crowds of this size to develop and (2) these demonstrations are forming despite the lack of any prominent national organization or leader. For the life of me I couldn't name a single major organizing figure behind the current anti-war movement. Which is a really great thing, in my opinion, since it makes it harder for the people in power to try and kill it at its head.

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